Addiction to pills for depression needs to end

Illustration by Sarah Casscaden / Contributor
Illustration by Sarah Casscaden / Contributor
Illustration by Kristine Delicana / Illustrations Editor

 

“I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. There’s no purpose to this, I just want to die.”

I know, that’s such a cliche line to introduce the topic of depression. But everyday I come home, I hear my mother speak those lines.

In fact, for as long as I remember, my mother has always been depressed. I just didn’t realize it until a few years ago. The good doctor says that she’s suffering from clinical depression. And that’s bad, as clinical depression is usually one of the highest categories in depression, according to WebMD.

I don’t know how to deal with depression, as mental health has only recently started gaining more attention. So I did what the good doc told me to do, buy antidepressant pills and take my mother to counseling.

I shelled out countless dollars buying those antidepressant pills over the past few years. And my mother’s condition never improved. She stayed clinically depressed and had constant suicidal and hopeless thoughts.

I was hoping that those damn magic pills would somehow pull my mother out of that dark hole she’s stuck in. But I realized something. Even if these pills work, the effects are only temporary. At least in the case for my mother, depression can’t be handled by a magic pill.

Antidepressant pills miss out on the most important thing, that depression is a human factor. It’s true that there are chemicals that affect our mood, but human emotion is something intangible that no drug can fix.

What I’m saying is that America needs to get off its addiction to pills when it comes to dealing with depression.

Psychology Today found that in 2012, Americans spend about $11.3 billion annually on antidepressants. About 17 million Americans take antidepressants and one in 10 Americans over the age of 12 take an antidepressant. Americans also consume the largest amount of antidepressants as compared to any other developed nation.

That’s huge. The data suggests multiple things, one being that somehow American depression rates has increased exponentially over the past few decades. The data can also correlate with how mental health, depression being one of the major categories of mental health, has gained more exposure and people are now more aware of it. In this case, now that there is more information about depression, people are being prescribed more antidepressants to combat depression.

Even so, the effectiveness of antidepressants are questioned. Not only that, but the data collected about antidepressants do not make the debate any more clear. Since antidepressants have been around, scientists, doctors, the media and average people question whether or not antidepressant is just another placebo.

Irving Kirsch, a Harvard researcher and psychologist, published a book about antidepressants back in 2010. His book claims that antidepressant pills are nothing more than placebos and that America needs to stop popping pills to fight depression. Kirsch’s research was featured on a segment of 60 Minutes, but even that segment would leave anyone scratching their heads.

Critics of Kirsch’s research say that his studies have been limited, only confined to six different types of antidepressants and following the rules for F.D.A. approval. There are also various sources that would advocate that antidepressants work.

For instance, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a report that found that antidepressants are more effective for more severe cases of depression. On the other hand, in more mild cases of depression, the pills had little to no benefit over a placebo pill.

To put what I’ve researched into ordinary language, antidepressant research is still being looked into. There is no definite answer as to whether this stuff works.

But from my experiences, these supposedly magic pills didn’t work. And that’s fine, as each individual responds to each treatment differently.

I am concerned however, over the use of antidepressants in America and just how easily the doctor prescribed the medication to my mother. After diagnosing my mother with depression, he just said well let’s try antidepressants.

That’s fine, we’ve never tried them before. Let’s see if they can help. We first started with Prozac for a few months. Nothing improved. Then he prescribed Zoloft. Nothing improved, again. And that was the cycle for the past few years. Just moving from prescription to prescription.

It just seemed that the good ol’ doc was just trying to find that one magic antidepressant that would solve everything. And for some reason, my mother and I went along with it hoping for the same results.

But consider this, so many people have been prescribed antidepressants, and its use has risen over the past several years. And since depression is still a huge topic of research, gaining access to a prescription for antidepressants is not that hard.

As I’ve said, I don’t believe some sort of magical pill can solve the depression problem in America. Instead, I am disgusted with just how quickly my mother’s doctor just wrote off her depression by saying take this pill or this pill if that one doesn’t work.

It just made me realize the gross error of the industry and the reliance of medication. It also tells me how much certain doctors care about their patients. Just take pills, they say. No.

Depression is a state of human emotion. It’s terrible and it is damn hard to live and deal with someone who is severely depressed. Instead of reaching out to my mother and talking to her I ran away from her. I kept myself busy with work, school and friends. I couldn’t stand being around her because she was always so negative about me, the world and her life.

I know that she feels isolated. She’s lonely and feels hurt from the injustices that society pushed against her. She went through a lot trying to achieve the American dream. But she never achieved it.

I was just tossing money at pharmaceutical companies hoping the problem would just go away. I lacked empathy for my own mother.

I didn’t know what to do and I regret it.

That’s the unfortunate case of American depression. We don’t know what to do about depression, so we just toss pills at the problem. But we need to stop that habit. The best medication for depression is just human empathy.

Check out the rest of The Sundial’s Mental Health Issue in a special section here.